Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Back to The Future - The Eighties Reborn Featuring the Plimsouls and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal: October 31, 1981 Whisky A Go GoThe Plimsouls - Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal

Living in LA in the '80's, you couldn't be faulted for thinking that everybody in the world knew about the Plimsouls.  Blasting "1,000,000 Miles Away" or "Hush Hush" through the speakers of KSPC radio, it just seemed natural that the rest of the world was tuned into what we all took for granted.. . . that the Plimsouls were just about the best damn rock band out there.  Imagine my surprise then when I found out the Plimsouls were actually more of a hometown legend than a world destroyer.  Well, that just couldn't be right.

But unfortunately it was.  While we had the chance to catch the boys live just about any night we chose down at any club in LA, the rest of the world wasn't so lucky.  And after disbanding, and Peter Case launching off on a cool, wandering troubadour singing career, it seemed that the rest of the world was just going to miss out on that high-octane mixture of garage, psychedelia and power pop that defined the Plimsouls.

Well, the rest of the world doesn't have to miss out anymore.  Recorded live on the Sunset Strip near the peak of their prowess, Live! Beg, Borrow and Steal demonstrates just about everything that made the Plimsouls our favorite little secret.   Check out that crowd reaction as the announcer brings on "LA's Finest."  They knew who these guys were.  They loved these guys.  And it's no wonder, launching immediately into the shimmering guitar riff of "Hush Hush," dropping right down into that near tribal beat, The Plimsouls brought it all that night.  This is a hefty dose of power pop songwriting skills still buried in the fuzz and grit of the garage.  Pure pop heaven, but not all cleaned up and pretty.  The Plimsouls, despite all their refinement could mess around with the best of them.

Right of the bat it's easy to see what made the Plimsouls so powerful.  In Peter Case they not only had a songwriter of world-class talent, but they also got a front man of tremendous charisma and a voice that just oozed soul in its throaty delivery.  If they'd had some pretty boy, soft and smooth tenor singing, it just wouldn't have worked.  Listen to Peter's voice barely hanging on during "Shaky City."  You just don't find soul like that mixed in with your power pop everyday.

Over the 18 songs, many Plimsouls classics appear, from the above mentioned songs to "Now," "A Million Miles Away," and "Zero Hour."  Each of those tracks are perfect, punchy and gritty, just the way I remember them from any number of club dates.  But thrown into the mix are a couple of surprises that just make this Live Album irresistible.   The 5th track is a frenetic moment of crunchy garage pop perfection as the Plimsouls take on the Easybeat's "Sorry," a song I'd always associated with The Three O'clock.  And damn, if they don't mine that one to perfection.  Another special treat comes near the end as the Fleshtones come on out and join The Plimsouls on stage for a definitively ragged rendition of the garage rager "New Orleans" and "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!"   The fun those two bands were having that night was infectious, the audience wailing in approval, as I am right now.

If you're a fan of the Plimsouls, you don't want to miss one.

buy here: Live! Beg, Borrow & Steal: October 31, 1981 Whisky A Go Go

Welcome to the PleasuredomeFrankie Goes to Hollywood - Welcome to the Pleasuredome Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition

You had to be there.

Way back in 1984, I was living in England, attending Cambridge University and basically sucking up as much British music as I could.  One night, I finally gathered up the nerve to ask Terese, a waitress at the dining hall, out to dinner and dancing.  After a fine (?) meal of local British cuisine (?) we made our way to the main underground club.  Electro New Wave was all the rage then, with bands like Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and New Order dominating the dancefloor.  Then from out of nowhere, the DJ plopped on a brand new single he'd just received.  After a tentative moment of unfamiliarity, as the song crept up to speed through it's synthesizer intro, the beat started.  Holly Johnson's voice filled the speakers with his plaintive wail, and then . . . all hell broke loose.  Guess you had to be there, but as "Relax" gained in speed and power and tempo, the entire club went crazy.  Lights flashing, lasers streaming, smoke billowing,  it seemed like there had never been a dance song created before Frankie's "Relax," and it certainly seemed that there could never be another one after it.

Within weeks, Frankie t-shirts started appearing in the local market, then on the television, then all over the world.  Once the BBC finally realized how absolutely filthy the lyrics to "Relax" were, they banned the song, which only sent it into the stratosphere.  No one could get enough Frankie in those heady days of big hair and bad clothing.  I still have my very-banned copy of the "Relax" 12" that dared to feature the words Come and Suck on the cover.

When I got back to America, the Frankie Goes to Hollywood frenzy hadn't arrived on the Yankee shores yet, so it was up to me to spread the gospel.  I played that "Relax" 12" for anyone who'd listen, creating a swath of Frankie converts in my wake.  And it was easy.  With the intense density of the bass riff and those massive guitar chords, "Relax" became one of the few dance songs that even some metalheads could nod to.  "War" and "Two Tribes" followed, each 12" greedily added to my collection.  But my eyes were on the distant prize, the upcoming Welcome to the Pleasuredome album.

Now in America, it seems that Frankie never reached the heights they did back in the UK.  Probably, because in the US people didn't know what to make of the band.  They either took them too seriously or dismissed them as a joke, and neither response was appropriate.  Frankie were both, they were everything, and they were nothing.  They were totally over-the-top flamboyance in an age of flamboyance.  They were trend followers, not starters, who nonetheless created trends in their wake.  They were fantastic and awful all in the same breath.  They were a brilliant, sexy, blasphemous, decadent, and threatening pop cartoon.  That's what made them so damn outrageous.

With this 25th anniversary release of Pleasuredome, the world once again can lose itself in the Frankie spell.  "Relax," "War," and "Two Tribes," sound just as dancefloor pounding brilliant today as they did back then.  Songs that just refuse to age.  "Welcome to the Pleasuredome," has an added aura of completeness, the best of the new tracks that appeared on that album, with it's nonstop, undulating shear-hypnotic dance beat.  It was Frankie's call to action.  To lose your inhibitions and your hang-ups at the door, loosen up that thing you call an ass and find your place on the dancefloor.  Somehow, that tune sounds more epic today than it did in 1984.

The other songs, much like they did back then, offer a mixed bag of the brilliant and the terrifying.  For some reason Frankie's cover of Springsteen's "Born to Run" makes sense to me this time, some twisted, mutated dance anthem of rebellion.  "Wish The Lads Were Here," bakes in the sweat of its pulsating dance floor orgy mode, while "Krisco Kisses," is just positively filthy, a sexcapade wrapped up in a swinging bass line and a methamphetamine frenzy.  Even "Ferry" a song I despised at the time, sounds right this time around.  Other songs like the still bewildering inclusion of Bacharach's "San Jose (The Way)" still leave me mystified.  But then, that's Frankie.

But of course, any double-disc anniversary edition is only as good as the bonus disc, and on this one tons of treats await, from the 16 minute extended version of "Relax" to the Greek disco remix of "Relax" to the 11 minute never before released version of "The Ballad of 32." As good as these are, the real treats are the previously unreleased demos of  "Two Tribes," and "War," proving them to be just as powerful in their rawer, under-produced stages.  "Watusi Love Juicy," is an entirely unreleased song from the end of the Pleasurdome-era that will only go on to further the Frankie legend.

My advice.  Forget reading this review.  You know the songs.  Give in.  Find your place on the dancefloor my friend.  Lights out.  Decadence awaits.


buy here: Welcome to the Pleasuredome

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